Top 3 Reasons B2Bs Can’t Personalize Messaging Properly

October 24, 2017 6:23:42 AM | By Matt Benati

Top 3 Reasons B2Bs Can’t Personalize Messaging Properly

My research for last week’s article on Customer Experience (CX) uncovered a wealth of information about the various touches throughout the customer lifecycle. One thing that really resonated with me was the importance of personalizing your messaging. While nearly everyone agrees that personalization has value, I was surprised by some of the findings reported in a recent study by Seismic and Demand Metric regarding content personalization in the B2B arena.

What they found is that, yes, personalization has value and businesses that implement this strategy see results. But, there are still some pretty significant roadblocks preventing widespread adoption. Namely, lack of technology, resources, and data.

As you read through this post, think about how you would rate your own personalization strategy in terms of processes and technology. While some B2Bs have been personalization pros for quite some time now, the study shows that the majority still have a ways to go.

Doug Winter, CEO of Seismic says this about the evolution of personalization: “Much like how marketing automation disrupted the marketing landscape about a decade ago, marketers today that can execute a holistic and efficient content personalization process before their competitors do will be in a much better position to win more deals and close more sales.”

Let’s take a closer look at some of the findings from the study, and then I’ll show you how reply email mining can deliver fresh, actionable information to automation platforms and solve one of the most cited pain points of personalization: lack of data.

Content Personalization Has Value

While it’s easy to see how personalization has value in the B2C realm (“These wool socks would go great with the new hiking boots you just bought!”), it can be bit trickier for B2Bs to figure out how to apply it when marketing to accounts. As more organizations adopt a personalization strategy, however, the benefits become quite clear. Nearly 80% of respondents in the Seismic/Demand Metric study agreed that personalization has value to B2Bs.

So how many are actually personalizing content, and how well do they think it works?

  • 61% of respondents personalize at least some of their content
  • 48% say it’s “more effective”
  • 32% say it’s “much more effective” than un-personalized content.

That’s a resounding 80% that agree that personalized content is more effective than un-personalized.

80% of #B2B marketers agree that personalized content is more effective than un-personalized. (via @SeismicSoftware) Click To Tweet

Why Isn’t Everybody Doing It?

In short, because it’s not easy. While technology exists to personalize content, like most good things, it requires an investment — in both time and money. And because personalization only started catching on with B2Bs in recent years, many organizations are still using a mix of manual and automated processes to personalize their content.

Of the study’s respondents,

  • 27% do the process entirely manually
  • 40% do the process mostly manually with some automation
  • Only 5% is entirely automated

Then we get to the roadblocks to personalization. Not surprisingly, it boils down to technology, resources, data, and knowledge. All very common pain points when it comes to new strategies — much like how marketing automation came with a hefty learning curve on its rise to popularity a decade ago.

  • 59% don’t have the technology
  • 59% don’t have the resources/bandwidth
  • 53% don’t have the data
  • 28% think it’s too difficult

What Should You Be Personalizing?

For organizations just starting out with content personalization, it can feel daunting. Whether you plan to experiment and do the process manually, or you’re ready to invest in automation technology, everyone wants to know what they need to be personalizing to see results. The short answer is, it depends. Your industry, customer profile, database, and content marketing strategy will all factor into how you personalize your messaging.

The study found that organizations used the following types of content personalization:

  • Segment specific – content is personalized based on industry or segment criteria.
  • Persona specific – content is personalized based on buyer types within accounts.
  • Stage specific – content is personalized based on where the prospect or customer is in the buying process.
  • Account specific – content is personalized based on prospective target accounts.
  • Lead specific – content is personalized based on individual leads.

How often these personalization types are used:

  • Segment specific – 68%
  • Persona specific – 61%
  • Account specific – 54%
  • Lead specific – 37%
  • Stage specific – 33%

More importantly, which ones work the best? Study respondents were asked to rate each personalization type based on how well the personalized content meets its intended objectives.

The study pointed out that organizations employing mostly or entirely automated processes were more likely to use persona-specific personalization — which also happens to be the most effective type for meeting content objectives, as shown above.

How Much Content Do You Have To Personalize?

Unless you have a fully-automated process, personalization can be time-consuming, which is why so many respondents cited lack of resources as a reason for not doing it. Do you have to personalize everything? How much do you have to personalize before your audience sees it? Turns out, the study found that there is a personalization “sweet spot” and it’s between 21-40%. Of the respondents that personalized this amount on content, 86% said the content met its objectives “well” or “very well.”

While it’s great to know you don’t have to personalize every piece of content you send out, determining which pieces will be most effective is still going to be specific to your organization and your goals. Ultimately, it comes down to trial and error, so it’s important to have metrics in place to gauge the success of your content and personalization efforts.

LeadGnome Delivers Data To Support Personalization Through Automation

Lack of data can be one of the main roadblocks to personalization, and it makes sense. Account and lead information is fluid and constantly changing —  from basic things like name changes and promotions, to more serious shakeups like mergers and acquisitions. This constant change makes it difficult to maintain a personalization strategy. The problem is, database maintenance is hard work.

Do any of these database scenarios sound familiar?

  • Incomplete, with name and email only from mostly inbound lead gen strategies – Impossible to begin personalizing before learning more about your leads.
  • Complete, but with no strategy to cleanse and enrich records – Bad data could be affecting your business objectives.
  • Complete, but purchased from a database vendor – Data began to decay the moment it was created, and you realize the need for a database maintenance solution.
  • Complete, and in a state of continual cleansing and enriching – Woohoo, you rock!

The good news is that no matter where your database is, LeadGnome provides the data to support your personalization strategy. Here’s how it works:

Account Based Intelligence (ABI) is mined from email replies every time you send an email marketing campaign. From seemingly-benign auto-responses like Out-Of-Office emails, LeadGnome identifies a wealth of information, such as a lead’s name (important if you’re leveraging frictionless forms at the top of your funnel) and title. This information is critical if you plan to personalize content based on persona. Remember, that was the personalization type that study respondents said best met their content objectives. And it makes sense! People want content relevant to their job and their role within their organization. Your CEOs don’t want user tips and your users don’t want studies on the ROI of adopting your solution.

Even better is that, when integrated with your existing marketing automation platform (like Marketo or Oracle Marketing Cloud), the data that LeadGnome mines can be applied to workflows that automatically perform tasks, such as sending personalized content.

“Hey! Sally over at ACME was just promoted this week! Let’s stop sending her tips geared toward users, and let’s send her a product buying guide and demo offer instead!”

YES. LeadGnome finds the data that makes these revelations possible. And YES, you really can make the changes to your database and email lists and send the new personalized content automatically just by leveraging the technology you’re already using.

Content Personalization Has Officially Arrived & It’s Not Too Late To Get On Board

Content personalization has officially “arrived” with more B2Bs getting onboard in just the past 2 years. Only 18% of the study respondents had been personalizing 5+ years, while most had been personalizing for 1 year (27%) or less than 1 year (28%). The great news is that now there is automation technology available to make personalization a reality for organizations previously on the fence. Smart Selling Tools is a fantastic resource for learning about the best sales and marketing technology solutions on the market, including those that support personalization.

Ready to find out how LeadGnome can take your personalization strategy to the next level? Download the Transformative B2B Demand Generation eBook to find out more.

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